Saturday, December 31, 2011

How to spend less time in the kitchen; creativity allows time and opportunity to save money

My kitchen is in the center of my home, literally. Geometrically and figuratively speaking, it’s much the same, yet, a bit different in mine than it was in my parents home. It is the heart and soul that binds our family in special ways. Maybe it was a Minnesota thing—we didn’t consider “lunch” as a meal (it was a coffee break with a snack/dessert)—but if we had called it a meal, we usually had five per day:
  1. Breakfast
  2. Morning Lunch
  3. Dinner (not lunch)
  4. Afternoon Lunch
  5. Supper (not dinner)
As I reminisce, I see blessings of eating and gathering near the kitchen. Some of these traditions have been important to carry on to my home and into the future.
  • My mother and father utilized our home as the communication hub of the seed business they built together.
  • Business management required mental and physical energy derived from nutritious meals and “lunches”.
  • Mom was an excellent chef, baker, business woman and homemaker. As I remember, she was always preparing something delicious or teaching us how to bake a cake (and other goodies) and help with clean-up. Food is a blessing in itself, but it means so much more when it is served with love.
  • In the winter months, it was a great place to thaw out; and a comforting place to chill in the summer.
  • Back then, there was no competition with a computer for passing time.
  • Much of the food we ate including pork (until they stopped raising pigs), vegetables and fruit was a product my parent’s farm.
  • My family of eight required a lot of food, economically prepared.
  • No fast food restaurants existed in the area.
  • Eating at a restaurant was a luxury which was reserved for extremely rare occasions. The concept that luxuries are indeed not necessities makes me cherish the fact that we were so happy without them. Perhaps, that is the secret to a content life. We learned that if you can’t afford something, don’t think about getting it until you earn enough to afford it. We also learned that it was a sin to covet things others had which we did not. The amazing thing is that I didn’t realize that I was missing a thing!
  • My parents had learned a healthy work ethic and self sufficient ways from my grandparents; they carried out many traditions, yet, we also enjoyed modern conveniences such as frozen pizza [which has become a “staple” in our diet as my son jokes].
  • Meals were a family event, shared together around a table without distractions.
  • Meals started with the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen”. After the meal we prayed together “Oh, Give Thanks unto the LORD for He is good and his mercy endures forever. Amen”. At some point it was decided to pray both prayers before the meal instead of one before and the other after. This often catches others off guard, because it is not a common practice.
  • It was customary that a meal was followed by scripture readings and a teaching story from a devotional titled Portals of Prayer. After this, we prayed The Lord’s Prayer together before moving on to the rest of the day.
Times change. It is easy to lose our way and forget about important traditions. We choose what becomes the heart and soul of life and it is easy to forget to keep God in the top of our priorities. Most people do not have the opportunity to live on a farm, earn a living by working the land, build and run a business from home. We are called to various vocations which, when adding the commute, occupy many hours of our day.

If the New Year is a good time to make resolutions, here are a couple that are worthy of the effort:
  1. Strive to be a careful steward of God-given resources and time.
  2. Strive to remember the Creator and the giver of all good things. 
Tips to make the most of time in/near the kitchen, as brief as it may be. Be creative!
  • When I shop, I choose, primarily, items that are on sale—advertised to draw people into the store. I don’t spend time reading ads. Sale items usually are displayed well enough to find. I don’t allow much time to shop—that way I leave the store before buying too many items that don’t have price reductions. I stock up on the “deals” that fall into the basic nutritious food groups. I plan to be spontaneous and experimental in using my purchases. At certain times of the year, I shop during my lunch break and leave everything in the car until I get off work later. Other times, my husband drops me off after church and I shop while he fills the car with gas and stops at the car wash.
  • When there is something in the fridge and I experience “chef’s block” (at a loss for how to make it into a meal), I Google the item (along with the word “recipe”) for inspiration. I don’t worry about following recipes exactly as they’re written. Improvisation is an ingredient of creativity. Occasionally I go and buy special ingredients that weren’t “on sale” or ask my husband to pick something up while he’s out and about.
  • I make more than is eaten in one meal, almost always. 
  • Unless it “calls me” right away, I skip a day before serving leftovers again, to break it up.
  • I explore new ways to serve leftovers, especially when I only have enough to half-fill one person or not quite enough for the whole family. For example on the first day: chop chicken breast to stir fry with frozen veggies and serve with steamed rice. The second day, open a can of cream of chicken soup. I have leftover cream that I used in quiche a few days ago—there’s more than I can use in coffee—and I don’t have time to use it for another recipe, so, I use the cream instead of milk or water with condensed soup. Mix it all up with chicken/veggie/rice leftovers.  Wha-la! Instant “cuisine” is what I call creative leftover dishes. Serve a little shredded cheese on top of the savory soup and some crackers. Or slice cheese and serve on top of crackers. Or, spread a bit of cream cheese on those crackers. I guess you realize that cheese is a staple in my diet. Rich in protein, calcium and comfort, too.
  • Frozen pizza is made extra special by adding seasonal veggies (such as zucchini) and other goodies.
  • No gender discrimination in my kitchen—men/boys are as welcome as women/girls to share in food prep and cleanup—big difference between my parent’s kitchen and mine.
  • Roast a big chunk of meat or make extra meatloaf. Slice leftovers for sandwiches, adding a little dijon mustard and fresh leaf lettuce to make it better.
  • Stock up on a variety fresh fruit that is “on sale” and add a couple pieces to brown bag with a sandwich for a  lunch.
  • Eat a brown-bag-lunch on the way to the post office, library or while reading a book in the park during lunch hour. Save the luxury of “going out” as a treat for very special occasions. Save the brown bag to use again tomorrow (unless my banana peel went into it).
  • I save money by brown-bagging and utilizing each and every scrap of left over food in creative recipes I invent. This justifies a weekly splurge on a fast food meal from a drive-through which I am fortunate to have in the neighborhood. This takes place on Sundays after picking up groceries, gas, and a car wash. We eat on the way home to make more time in the weekend for relaxation and enjoyment.
  • When considering options for entertainment, let the kitchen take center stage. It might be easier to invite friends to meet at a restaurant (sometimes that is best), but inviting friends into your home is a warm gesture and often is more enjoyable than going out. If time is short or if the list of guests is large, don’t hesitate to ask others to bring something to share. Often they will offer and feel good about contributing to a meal. Inviting friends to your home is great inspiration to take on house cleaning and offers the benefit of accomplishing that task.
  • Remember valuable lessons you learned from parents. Do things different than they did to fit your own lifestyle and schedule. If you weren’t nurtured in a Christian atmosphere—until the day you die—it is not to late to receive the blessings gained from getting involved with worship/education by attending church and reading devotions. Find ways to pass spiritual gems on to your children. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Happy New Year! 

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    Who’s your role model? Take the test…

    This time of year, inspiration surrounds me. To name a few blessings:
    • Only 5 blocks to a walk in the countryside; beautiful sunset; mid 50°s on a calm, mid December day.
    • Traditions… an Advent worship service sermon focusing on peace. Special pink candles that mean “Rejoice! … the Lord is near,” based on Philippians 4:4.
    • Music in the air and cards in the mail connecting Christians in celebration of the real reason for The Holidays, better known as Christmas.
    • A perfectly good reason to compliment a neighbor who’s made the effort to decorate his home with lights.
    • An email from a friend with a quirky equation quiz to identify your role model. Here it is…
    Using simple math, find your role model. Mine wasn't a surprise... How about you?

    DON'T SCROLL DOWN YET! FIRST, do the simple math below. 

    THEN, scroll down to find your hero. Do not scroll down until you do the math!
    It is truly remarkable just how accurate this is!
    1. Pick your favorite number between 1 and 8. 
    2. Multiply your choice by 3. 
    3. Add 3. 
    4. Multiply again by 3—I'll wait if you need a calculator. 
    5. You'll get a 2-digit number… maybe 42, for example. 
    6. Add the digits together (example: 4 plus 2 = 6).
    Now remember this final number and scroll down.

    scroll down

    scroll down

    With that number, see who your ROLE MODEL is from the list below:
    1. Albert Einstein 
    2. Paul, the Apostle 
    3. Mother Theresa 
    4. Bill Gates 
    5. King Solomon 
    6. Theodore Roosevelt 
    7. Babe Ruth 
    8. Winston Churchill 
    9. Jesus Christ! 
    10. Peter, the Apostle
    I know, I know... He has that effect on everyone, and one day you will meet Him! Believe it! The Savior has come and He will come again.

    P.S. Stop picking different numbers! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life! Now, sit back, relax and enjoy your day! 

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Clear the Drawing Table

    I have a drawing table which gets used for much more than drawing. Great lighting, access to music and all of my favorite tools are there. If there is room on my table, it is where I’ll:
    • Create and stamp a greeting card when I need one.
    • Pile bills until I pay them.
    • Pile papers to file and save.
    • Put photos in albums.
    • Sketch in sketchbook.
    • Paint with watercolor.
    • Wrap a gift. 
    • Balance the checkbook.
    • Fill out forms.
    • Fix things.
    • Take care of things to be mailed.
    • Look through things for inspiration.
    • Do things for family.
    I’m an excellent procrastinator. I’d rather blog or do anything creative than do paperwork, pay bills, clean and file. This means things pile up. Part of my brain tortures me for having to look at unorganized clutter. I realize my brain is divided into two hemispheres and each has unique characteristics. I am blessed to have both left and right brain qualities! As they miraculously work together, they balance out conflicting traits and motivate me to action. I cleared off my drawing table this week (ok, I admit, almost completely clear). In the process, I found a gift item that I’d cleverly hidden nearby and had been looking for it over a month! The wonderful emotional state after accomplishing a task is so much better than the guilty feeling of putting things off. I’ve decided I shouldn’t let things in this space to accumulate so long (ok, I admit, almost everything in this space). Today I added Clear Drawing Table into my iCal with an action to send me a reminder every month. My special space is ready to tackle something. So I better quit blogging and get busy. Besides, my husband wants to Google something in this computer space :-)

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    Life: A Celebration of Ages in a Nutshell

    What is your first memory? Which days in your life will you never forget? Life happens so quickly, yet each day has 24 unique hours. That is 1,440 minutes of life in one single day! When I was a child, I learned a saying, “today is the first day of the rest of your life”. Simple, yet profound. Now, each Sunday morning our Pastor greets the people with, “This is the day that the LORD has made;” and we reply, “let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 ESV). There are plenty of moments to be sad, scared, frustrated, sick, confused, hurried, stressed; as well as times to be happy, courageous, creative, exercising, helpful, entertaining and resting. The Bible verse offers a simple truth that allows me to make the best of every situation: focus on something to rejoice and be glad about in the day that is given to me :-)

    • 9 months–0: I don’t have memories of what was going on before my birth, but there is plenty of research to back up the fact that I was a precious living human being from the time of conception and during the months Mom carried me. Preborn babies respond differently to various types of music for example. I am very thankful that my Mom was NOT pro-choice/pro-abortion, but she was pro-life! A good website for information on that is Lutherans For Life.
    • 0–4: Baptism was the highlight. I received the gift of faith, forgiveness of sins and peace with God by the working of the Holy Spirit. At this point God looks at me through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit led my parents to bring me to worship—surround me with Christians—and provide me with daily devotions to develop wisdom and a strong spiritual foundation throughout my childhood. The physical, spiritual and intellectual growth during this period of time is amazing! One specific memory I have (when I was short enough to walk underneath the dinner table) is when I hit my head on a corner of the framework at the gap where additional leaves were added to accommodate a large family.
    • 5–9: Kindergarten was the most wonderful year! I decided I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher when I grew up. I changed my mind, but I found a great friend who has that occupation! Working on the farm, with tasks like picking rocks, chopping thistles and pulling weeds were introduced during this period. Creative growth flourished in these early years.
    • 10–14: Lutheran Island Camp in Henning, Minnesota is a great memory. 4-H also provided benefits of a wide variety of social and educational experiences.
    • 15–19: Working in the fields, detasseling corn and a factory job, building computer parts for airplanes. Appleton High School, dance line, theatre; Alexandria Technical College…so much education and some fun, too.
    • 20–24: A move to Brookings, South Dakota, starting a professional career as a graphic designer in a printing company. Marriage!
    • 25–29A move to Kansas! Two babies!
    • 30–34Two children!
    • 35–39Two adolescents!
    • 40–44Two teens!
    • 45–49
      Two young adults! Loss of parents. I was the mother of the groom and gained a new daughter-in-law!
    Life has seen many changes in 49 years. Had I kept a diary, I’d be able to tell exactly when computers came into daily living. Technology has connected me to email, Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, Pinterest, Google+ and my own online shop on Etsy (not to mention to the many ways it changed my graphic design career). But the most meaningful changes involve family and friends. Life holds enormous blessings within the circle of loved ones…which reminds me of Skype!

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    How to Make Thanksgiving Dinner—A Comprehensive Pictorial Guide

    When my husband and I moved over 500 miles from our childhood homes in South Dakota and Minnesota, we quickly learned that we could no longer enjoy every holiday and special event with our grandparents, parents, siblings and cousins. It was time to carry on traditions in our new home and connect with new friends in Kansas, much like our ancestors that immigrated to the United States from Norway and Germany adapted to a new country. Thanksgiving is truly a holiday with Christian connections for both of us who’d grown up on farms where the word harvest has special meaning. There had been informal harvest festival celebrations in the United States prior to the reverent “Proclamation of Thanksgiving”  (please read) by United States President Abraham Lincoln.

    Preparing Thanksgiving dinner has become routine, credited to years of practice and a great husband who pitches in from the beginning of the culinary event all the way through the clean up. If you have never done this, now is the time to begin. Bookmark this page and refer to it as you plan your gathering. This is only a guide to the way I have become accustomed to doing it. In many situations, you may be able to delegate some of the responsibilities to to your guests who offer to help by bringing something to the table. If this is the case, you may suggest specific dishes (even recipes) and beverages in order to complete the menu you have in mind as you create your own traditions.
    • Start planning a month in advance by inviting guests (if you choose to). A thanksgiving dinner has wonderful meaning even if you don’t have extra guests. Either way, I always choose a turkey and figure recipe proportions to be more than what will be eaten for the meal. Thanksgiving leftovers are one of the best benefits of cooking this huge meal. They can be frozen or used through out the long weekend when it is a treat to forget about cooking so you can spend time doing other enjoyable things. 
    • Look up the recipes you want to make and start a shopping list. My recipes are available upon request.
    • Some items can be made prior to Thanksgiving Day. In my Norwegian tradition, making lefse is an essential item in the menu. Read more at my blog about How to Make Lefse.
    • My menu includes: turkey, apple-raisin stuffing, potatoes, gravy, squash (and/or orange glazed sweet potatoes), cranberry/orange/apple relish, green bean hot-dish, a variety of breads, lefse, butter, sugar, dill pickles, sweet pickles, beet pickles, green/black olives, carrot/celery sticks, water/milk/juice/wine/tea/coffee, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. This pictorial reference doesn’t include all of these items. The menu sometimes varies more or less from year to year.
    • Buy a loaf of bread for the stuffing and cut it up about a week in advance. Place the cubes in a pan and toss them occasionally so they dry up a bit. 
    • If the turkey you buy is frozen, put it in a pan and let it thaw in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
    • Attend a Thanksgiving worship service Wednesday evening (or whenever your church offers such a service). Check out the “find a church” link on this blog page if you don’t have a church. This is more important than the meal. You NEED faith-based food and nutrition from attending church and Bible study regularly with other Christians for a healthy spiritual life.
    • Study your recipes and try to schedule the preparation timing so everything is on the table fresh and hot. In order to get started early enough, set your alarm and wake up someone to help you. Take time for a shower once you have the turkey in the oven.
    • Early in the week, enlist others in the household to help in every way possible such as house cleaning, laundry, purchasing groceries. On Thanksgiving Day, don’t be afraid to allow guests and family members help with setting the table, serving drinks, clearing the table, doing dishes, cleaning the extra meat off the carcass, putting things away. Besides the blessing of a meal together, everything about the event is more enjoyable for the host/hostess when the work is shared.
    • Don’t worry about having everything perfectly clean and organized before guests arrive. Hospitality is a gift from God. Most people stress much more than necessary over using that gift. Invite people who don’t expect perfection. Live and learn!
    • Some families like to melt into the sofa and watch sports, but since I’ve never been a TV sports addict, I recommend other activities after the meal and clean up. Sometimes a nap is nice if you aren’t entertaining guests. Board games, card games, conversation, and a long walk in the country before sunset are my favorite activities.
    • One of my Etsy shop clients recommends a family project of filling information in a family tree chart for each family member.
    Here’s a picture story of making Thanksgiving dinner:
    If using frozen lefse, roll dough and pumpkin pie, take them out of the freezer to thaw and rise.
    Put the dried bread cubes in a large bowl
    Cook the butter, chopped onion and celery for the stuffing. The aroma will excite your senses and boost your enthusiasm.
    Rinse and put the turkey in a pan. Remove the extra items that are usually put in the cavity. Save the neck to tuck in the cooking bag with the turkey after it is stuffed.
    Chop apples and measure raisins for the dressing.
    Season and mix dressing ingredients.

    Stuff both ends of the turkey.
    Get out the sewing kit.
    Stitch the skin on the front end to hold the stuffing in place.
    Follow the directions that come with a turkey size cooking bag.
    Make fresh cranberry/apple/orange relish with an antique meat grinder.
    Remember to count your blessings. Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.

    Add butter and brown sugar (or this can be added after baking), cover with foil and place in pan to bake. Scoop out the baked squash, blend well with more butter and brown sugar, place in serving dish and keep warm.
    Wash potatoes
    Peel potatoes and boil.
    Prepare green bean hotdish.
    Bake rolls.
    When the turkey thermometer pops, remove from oven. Transfer turkey to another pan, but leave the juices in the pan. Transfer the dressing into a casserole and return to oven to keep warm, leaving the cover off so the top gets a little crunchy.
    Make gravy.
    Rice the potatoes or prepare mashed potatoes.
    Put everything on the table.
    Pray. Invite the Lord to be a guest at your meal [do this for every meal, every day]. Savor the aromas, the flavor and texture of each bite, eat slowly and enjoy conversation. Allow family and/or guests to share blessings in their lives, adding to a prayer of thanksgiving. 
    Happy Thanksgiving! “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2-1-4

    Saturday, November 19, 2011

    Thanksgiving for modern appliances and electricty

    I posted an antique called a sad iron (or flat iron) in my Etsy shop today. Imagine having a couple of these, heating them on a wood burning stove, ironing with one until it cooled down, then switching it for a hot one! Metal handles had to be gripped with a thick cloth. In order to get the heat, imagine chopping the wood and hauling it in and building a fire. Even though many garments don’t need much ironing these days, I still love the comfort of cotton which does. Plugging in the iron and catching up on ironing feels like a luxury after thinking of the pioneers who worked so hard to accomplish the same tasks.

    To get the clothes clean, pioneers pumped and hauled water, heated it on the stove and dumped it in a big tub. With organic lye soap which they’d cooked themselves, they physically washed by hand, with the use of a washboard, hand cranked clothes one-by-one through a wringer; then placed them in another tub of fresh water to rinse and cranked each garment through the ringer again! After all this, they threw the heavy water out the door. Not being able to toss them in a dryer, they hung all the garments to dry. In retrospect, I realize Life is Good as I took breaks from the computer to throw another load into the computerized washing machine and dryer. We should never complain about laundry in this day and age!

    My husband is a picker, similar to the guys on the popular show “American Pickers”. Today he was restoring of one of his “finds” called an ice box, a modestly sized piece of solid oak furniture, well built with shelves and galvanized tin interior lining. It has a door where you place a big block of ice that was purchased from the iceman. The ice had been laboriously sawed out of frozen lakes. A drip pan was placed behind a wooden door at the bottom which had to be emptied every day. As I approach my modern refrigerator and dispense cubes of ice and filtered water without even opening the door, I think, what a blessing! I could go on, but you get the idea.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    How to make Lefse, a delicious Norwegian tradition!

    Make mashed potato, whipping cream, butter, salt and sugar mixture. This can be done a day ahead and refrigerated. Make sure it is completely cooled before adding the flour.
    Cut in flour. Knead with hands.
    Form into logs. Cut a slice.

    Store logs in refrigerator while you continue. 
    Put the pastry cloth on the round board.
    Set up your working space.

    Make a patty.
    Sprinkle flour to prep your board.

    Use a special rolling pin with teeth. Have a dry toothbrush handy in case the dough gets stuck in it’s teeth, Uffda-namen! 
    Roll from center to outside carefully trying to form a circular shape.

    Grill should be piping hot! Use one stick to put it on, the other to turn it and take it off. It’s great to do this as a team.
    Flip a little bit over the edge of a flat stick, then rotate the stick to wind the dough onto it.
    Rotate the stick to unroll the dough onto the grill.

    Grill lefse until bubbly. Then use the stick to scoop it up in the center. Lay it back down on the other side. 

    Scoop up the lefse after it is grilled on both sides.
    Have a stack of several thick cotton cloths ready. Use a clothes pin to make a handle on one corner of the top half of your stack of cloths. 
    After removing lefse from grill, place the round flat between the towels. Cover immediately to keep the moisture in as you continue to roll them all out and while they begin to cool.
    Cut a piece in half. Butter and sprinkle with sugar.
    Fold it in half and then roll it up. Ya! This is the one you eat right away to make sure it is good enough to serve family and friends.
    After they have cooled uncover, fold each piece in half and stack. Then cut the stack into 3 wedges, leaving a hinge on the center section. The outer wedges form their own hinge from the first fold. I forgot to take a photo of this. Freeze it if you are making this ahead of time or if you have made more than you will eat in a few days.

    Cook the meal, set the table. Gather the group. Give thanks to God for all the blessings he provides.
    It’s ok to hold the lefse in your hand while you butter, add sugar and roll it up to eat with your meal. Pass the plate and let everyone prepare their own.
    Serve lefse with turkey that has been roasted in a cooking bag with apple-raisin stuffing, mashed or riced potatoes, gravy, squash, cranberry-orange-apple relish, green bean hot-dish, home-baked rolls, dill pickles, olives, radishes and/or other veggies, water or milk, wine, coffee, pumpkin pie with whipped topping. 

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    The blessings of a creative bond of friends, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, greatgrandmothers

    Making handmade cards is a fun event I share with the girls from church. As an artist who dabbles in rubber stamping, I’ve accumulated a collection of stamps, papers, ribbons, colored pencils, markers, paints, scissors that cut various edges, glues, embellishments... all the goodies to make unique greeting cards unlike anything that can be purchased. This craft differs from my career in graphic design because it does not require a computer. Back to good old touching materials and tools—folding, cutting and pasting—choosing images, words, color and textures. Mix in some girlfriends, tunes, snacks and drinks and whalah, a creative party! The date also served as a meeting of the organization Lutheran Women in Mission (LWML) which included a short story devotion, a prayer, a little business and this project. This is the third year I’ve hosted such an event. Not everyone who would have liked to, was available to come each year. We all have full schedules and responsibilities, but we enjoy each other’s company when we are able to participate. No matter if it be few or many, the companionship of women who share a common faith is a blessing to be thankful for. Ages range from 21 to 81(?). Actually, if you count the babe who came along, the age range was much wider. There are wonderful advantages in bringing together women of various stages of life.

    • Learn from each other
    • Share various life experiences
    • Cheer each other
    • Close the generation gap
    • Gain wisdom
    • Share humor
    • Help one another
    • Serve others and serve God

    Today we created 27 greeting cards which will be sent to members of our congregation. We believe this form of encouragement and sharing will brighten the day of people we care about. The occasions will vary:

    • Birth of a child
    • Special accomplishment
    • Thank you
    • Hospital stay
    • Death of a family member

    If you are a woman looking for a way to enrich your own life and the lives of others, I encourage you to seek the camaraderie of other women outside of your daily work and family tasks. You will likely discover the wonderful benefits of pushing yourself to use your gifts of creativity, hospitality and friendship.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Blessings of Good Health

    Exercise, fresh air, enough rest, keeping a positive outlook, washing hands and a nutritious diet are ways to stay healthy, but occasionally we (or people we love) will fall ill. At times like this…

    • Patience is not just a virtue to strive for, but a necessity. 
    • I visit for information, suggestions on lifestyle and home remedies. 
    • I’m reminded to have compassion for people struggling with health issues. 
    • I’m prompted to recall the blessings of hospitals, clinics, dentists, doctors, nurses and all healthcare professionals and institutions. 

    I am thankful today for regaining health after a sick day. How appreciative I am to enjoy the scents, flavors and textures of foods which give me energy and drinks that quench my thirst. I’m filled with gratitude of strength for the day, a clear mind and a joyful spirit.

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    What good is a tree? The value of going to church

    Here’s a little food for thought. I came across an article I’d clipped from the Salina Journal several years ago titled “The value of going to church” by Don Nofsinger. An analogy he mentioned from a Reader’s Digest story he’d read called “What Good is a Tree?” explained that when the roots of trees touch, there is a substance present that reduces competition. In fact, this fungus helps link roots of different trees—even of dissimilar species. A whole forest may be linked together. If one tree has access to water, another to nutrients, and a third to sunlight, the trees have the means to share with one another.

    A friend told me someone he knew didn’t attend because this person said there are too many hypocrites in church. I say, true—no one is perfect— therefore, as sinners we all fall into the category of being hypocrites. Another friend commented he’d once been told, “I’d rather sit with a few hypocrites on Sundays than spend every day of eternity with the rest of them.” I’ve heard a comment that church is a hospital for sinners.

    The following bullets are just a few benefits and blessings of attending church and Bible study classes:
    • Sense of belonging to a community of caring and nurturing people.
    • Christians need and support each other.
    • Mixing up God-given gifts/talents of members strengthen and benefit a community.
    • Maintain passion through encouragement of and from others. Analogy: if you pull a log away from a burning fire, eventually it will begin to smolder and go out.
    • The value of the sermon. It’s a spiritual talk given by a trained theologian with a master of divinity (at least in the LCMS) directly delivering God’s Word through his voice to your ears! He connects the Word to real life. Even though it only lasts about 10 minutes and you may not always remember every detail—think about this: Eating 32,000 meals over 30 years, you may not recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals, but this is sure: They all nourished you and gave you the strength to do your work. Going without food would physically kill me, likewise, skipping church for nourishment would leave me spiritually dead.
    • The opportunity to give thanks, praise, sing, worship, pray in God’s house
    • This is how God works: [1] By grace (Jesus death and resurrection) which is purely a gift of God; [2] Using God’s means: Word, water (baptism), bread and wine; [3] Through faith which God works; [4] Saved and forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
    Ok, it’s time for my walk. Have a great day!

      Saturday, October 15, 2011

      The blessings of eyesight and a content spirit

      In my last post, I mentioned the scene by a winding river on a cloudy day. Today I witnessed the same scene in mid-afternoon fully sun-lit splendor. The same, yet different. There is something about nature that is an automatic spirit booster! The perfect reminder of an intimate, inseparable link to our Creator. Besides the view, vitamin D from sunshine and exercise-induced endorphin release are additional blessings to me as I walk in the country. I think about the things I enjoy looking at such as…
      • scenery and details in nature
      • cityscapes and architectural design
      • faces—eyes, smiles
      • unique lighting
      • interesting shadows
      • visual and performance art
      • words in literature
      • shapes of fonts
      • color
      …I realize that I am truly blessed with eyesight.

      The topic of eyesight has an interesting connection to my family history. My grandmother gradually became blind due to a type of macular degeneration in her eyes. I have a baby portrait of her and also one taken at the time of her confirmation, probably when she was in junior high school. She wasn’t wearing glasses and probably could see perfectly. Eyes change though. Photos of her indicate that when I was born she could see perfectly with the help of regular corrective lenses just as approximately 75% of the adult USA population does. Grandma enjoyed life through her hobby of photography. I remember she used to pose my siblings and me when she’d come to visit and snap away those awesome black and white Polaroid cameras she’d bring along. What excitement to witness and take in the scent of the instant processing of images she shot. She had an artistic eye when it came to many things, especially photography. As a farmer’s daughter, I have another special memory connected to Grandma. Every year before school started, our family planned a vacation to go stay with Grandma who lived in “The Cities”. Grandma would drive us in her beige colored Dodge which had very distinct sounding blinkers. She’d bring us to places like Kentucky Fried Chicken and a park to watch squirrels and have a picnic with watermelon or fresh, juicy plums. But the highlight of the vacation was to go shopping at Southdale, which I considered to be the greatest shopping center ever! I think I was about in junior high when I learned that her sight was slipping. It wasn’t long after that when I found out she wouldn’t be able to drive anymore. As a child who probably hadn’t experienced that privilege yet, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. Now that I think about it, it must have felt like a big deal to her. I imagine now that she felt a great loss about the ability to enjoy looking at things and faces. It must have been really sad when she realized there would be no more creating images with her camera. These thoughts bring up another blessing. The blessing of being raised, nurtured and surrounded by people who don’t complain. Even though Grandma eventually could only read with the help of a super-powerful magnifying glass lens and then not at all—only blurry shapes of lightness and darkness—she didn’t complain. It came to the point that if she didn’t recognize a voice, she would ask who was speaking. She was legally blind and used a white cane. But does something like this shut down my Grandma? NO! It came about gradually and God gave her grace in learning ways to adapt and make the best of her situation. She learned to ask for help if she needed it, but if she could do something by herself, she would definitely do so. She’d loved to read when she could see, so she now borrowed books on record albums designed for blind people. She’d learned to crochet when she could see and now she was able to continue with this craft by feeling the needle and thread and counting the stitches. This qualifies her as a multi-tasker, to read and crochet at the same time! She still gave the very best Grandma hugs anyone could ever imagine. She still had wonderful stories to tell with her voice. Even though Grandma seemed so perfect to me, she understood that she was a sinner and we all are. She had a strong desire that everyone would have a personal relationship with Jesus and learn of His saving grace. We had a big party at her church when she turned 80. She stood up to thank everyone for coming and witnessed to others of her faith in our loving Triune God and encouraged us to do the same. I always will remember her with a smile on her face and her content and thankful spirit. In her remembrance I want to share this: if you’ve never set foot in a sanctuary, or if it’s been a while since you have, I encourage you to go to church where you will praise and thank God, be inspired by the Spirit, hear the Word and discover the same love and contentment my Grandmother had.

      Saturday, October 8, 2011

      Random Thoughts on a Walk

      I woke up with a headache this morning. My daughter tells me to drink more water. Huh, wonder where she’d gotten that idea. After a simple lunch of canned wild rice soup, my body told me, “rest.” After a nap, for the second time today I woke up with a headache. I wanted to go walk. It’s been lightly sprinkling out, but seemed to have stopped. Discouraged when temptation-to-skip-exercise tried to tell me, “nah, you’ll get wet.”—I’m thankful I listened to my husband who said, “Go anyway, it’s perfect for a walk, even if you get a little wet.” My headache went away during my walk! A sentence from my son comes to mind, “We never fail by communicating and counseling too much, the problems come when there is a lack of both.” It is coincidental that I developed a blog this week on my iMac on the very day that Steve Jobs died. Curiosity had gotten the best of me and I’d started @FreshRetroGal on Twitter as well, not being sure how involved I’ll get into either. I think about the blessing of technology…as a creative, Christian, family person and professional. This week my sister sent a packet of papers gathered and divided to complete the handling of Mom’s items of her earthly existence. What a blessing she and my father were, as I visualize their marriage certificate of 1950 and all the little notes and tidbits of that package. Even though I miss them, I am filled with joy to think of them now and forever together with our LORD. I’m thankful for other individuals—friends and church family—as I realize how they enrich my life and each member of my family’s life. Still walking…look at the river, it is beautiful. The ripening soybean field is yellow. The green field of a different crop behind it makes a gorgeous contrast. There is an old gray, galvanized tin shed sheltering big square bales. An antique orange farm truck is parked on the field road. Beyond that is a grove of trees beside the winding river. They are mostly green with a few fall colors emerging. Above the tree line is a cloudy sky with a soft texture of richly saturated colors. Thank you LORD, for creating this landscape for me to enjoy. Thank you for the sprinkling rain, nourishing your plants for the farmers whom you give the capability to produce the ingredients of the foods that sustain me. I’m home. Tonight I decide to read aloud to my family the Bible verses of today’s Portals of Prayer devotion after dinner. It’s a habit I’d neglected for a while, but it’s time to take it up again.

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      Everyone has a mom and dad, or did at one time!

      I’ve learned that October is Family History Month. Why not begin by asking members of your family questions about elders who were responsible for giving you life? It’s amazing to hear stories from: 
      • parents
      • grandparents
      • sisters
      • brothers
      • aunts
      • uncles
      • cousins 
      Unless your memory is more reliable than mine, bring along a pencil and take notes! To learn more about how to record the notes you jot down, visit the Family Tree Section at my Etsy shopI’d be happy to hear what you think of this new product for keeping track of the basic genealogy information you learn about your family history.